Coalition government: management advice for Cameron and Clegg

Interview with...

Bruce Scott, MD of Diligencia 
The importance of tackling the deficit quickly and why decisive decision-making and giving your team a clear direction should not come at the expense of canvassing a range of opinions - and that applies to Cabinet government as much as on the management team at the head of a business
David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Listen to part one of Bruce Scott's podcast: Coalition government: lessons from the boardroom

Bruce Scott on how the Conservatives and Lib Dems can put aside their differences...

"There’s no doubt there’s a long history of animosity between the Liberals and the Conservatives. They’re not the same, they come from different angles.

"The Liberal Democrats are a leftwing party and the Tories are a rightwing party but they both have centre grounds and I think Cameron has got the right idea with a five-year term to sort the mess out, which is only partly of the previous government’s making, but it certainly wasn’t helped by the previous government.

"If we’re going to do that then the individuals we’re talking about are going to have to put country before party. Now the Conservatives and the Liberals are going to have to get their act together and this will be a measure of the strong personalities of both David Cameron and Nick Clegg. As long as these two can stay united – but I think they’re going to be tested on so many issues..."

I don’t think we should be under any illusions: we are bust as a country and that should help these two parties’ get their heads together and sync differences

On the importance of tackling the deficit quickly...

"If you ask me honestly what did I want to see, I wanted to see one party with an absolute majority; I didn’t want a hung parliament.

"But now we’ve got a hung parliament, let’s see if we can make it the best parliament we’ve had for 30-40 years because it’s got the biggest challenge.

"When the Labour Party took over from the Tories, they took over the best set of books that any Chancellor handed on and everybody accepts that. This party has taken over the worst set of books and this is the test.

"They’re going to have to do some awfully unpopular things to you and me, and we’ve got to say to ourselves, if we’re £170bn in debt as a country, the sooner we get out of that situation back onto an even keel the better. If it’s going to be painful, for my money – and I mean my money – I would rather have the pain quicker rather than a slow, lingering pain that goes on year after year after year."

On whether such an unlikely coalition would have fallen apart more quickly in happier economic times...

"I don’t think in more benign times it would have happened at all. I think you needed this big catalyst of 'what should we do next?'

"I don’t think we should be under any illusions: we are bust as a country and that should help these two parties’ get their heads together and sync differences."

Why two parties with such divergent policy platforms should still be able to find plenty of common ground...

"There’s more actually that unites British people and I’m a great believer in this. it doesn’t matter what you’re vote is, if you’re an extreme socialist or an extreme Tory, there is a whole range of values that you’ll sign up to.

"But there are a whole range of other things you’ll find yourselves opposed to. And when you’re in business, and you find you’re totally opposed to some of your colleagues, you’ve got two things you can do.

"One is, you can hold your line, fight it and lose, and have to leave the team, or you can sync your differences, make it work, and when better times come, then fight your corner.

"That’s the test: can they sync their differences in the interests of Great Britain? If they can, then I think it could be great. I’m an optimist; I believe it can happen, but it will depend on the leadership qualities of the two gentlemen at the top."

On striking the right balance between acting decisively but being collegiate and listening to a range of views...

"I think it does come back to the previous answer about syncing differences and uniting on common interest. Having said that, one should never be afraid to listen to somebody outside the group.

"And when we’re assessing a management team before a big investment is put to them, we would give them points if that was a team of people that listened to outside advice. People who act internally and unilaterally are not usually in management as successful as those who listen to others, evaluate opinions and then come to a decision and drive forward.

"The big trick is listen to people but don’t listen for too long; make a decision - because leadership is about direction."

Listen to part one of Bruce Scott's podcast: Coalition government: lessons from the boardroom


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